Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Welcome to FromDC2Iowa: Contents & Guide

Over 1,000 blog posts on a variety of topics since 2006.
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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)


Curious About Real Intelligence
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, December 5, 2023, p. A6

“Curiosity killed the cat”? Not our cats. They slowly walk around the water dispenser, looking, sniffing, contemplating before risking a tongue immersion.

My 86 billion neurons recall my lying on my back in the front yard of our Brown Street house, age three, curious whether wind makes trees sway, or moving trees make the wind blow.

Maybe three-year-olds should know the answer. But at least my curiosity was not risky curiosity. Young boys discovering steam tunnels under the University campus, including one that goes under the river to the hospital? Now that’s a risky curiosity.

Using bridges, not steam tunnels, we moved to the West side. Irving Weber, Iowa City’s historian, lived across the street from us with his wife, Martha, and son, Willis.

Willie and I wondered if copper wire from the roof of my house to his roof might transmit the dots and dashes of Morse Code. Our small battery only produced one “dot” and the beginning of a “dash” (letter “A”). My mother asked why we didn’t use the phone. Martha never forgot the hole we made in her roof. Modestly risky.

Could a kit-built transmitter – with 500-foot antenna -- interfere with commercial radio stations? It could. High risk (though we were unaware of the illegality). That led to an amateur radio transmitter, licensed and legal (minimal risk) and presidential appointment as an FCC commissioner.

Birds have their “territory,” we had ours – including Rock Island Railroad track. We were curious what a locomotive would do to a penny on the track. It flattened it into something we could sell for a nickel (unaware it was also a crime: 18 U.S. Code Sec. 331). Risky curiosity.

A 50-cent piece? Derail a locomotive? Young neighbors debated. Some had seen half-dollars; none possessed one. Curiosity unfulfilled.

My current curiosity involves brains of animals – including Homo sapiens, the only animal species able to talk itself into difficulties that would not otherwise exist. [Photo credit: Wikimedia commons; National Institutes of Health.]

Aside from my scholarly writing, my random curiosity is not that of an academic – discovering more and more about less and less until knowing everything about very little (Ph.D.), or less and less about more and more until knowing a little about everything (liberal arts B.A.).

Curiosity has meant I’d rather be good, mediocre or poor at many things than excel at one. Double par golf. Singing off-key. Trombone sounds only loved by moose. Playing high school basketball for a coach who said I looked like an elephant on ice.

There is no longer an “I.” Only bodies run by brains. My interest is not brains’ weight, neuron numbers and electric messaging. I want to know precisely how those neurons sense, create, store and retrieve a song, book or image from decades ago.

I agree with neurologist Jeff Hawkins: “We don't need more data, we need a good theory.”

Before we struggle with AI’s pros and cons shouldn’t we, like cats, be more curious about what neurons are doing and how they do it?

Nicholas Johnson believes that artificial intelligence is better than none. Contact: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org


Note: Of necessity, most of the “sources” for this column are from memories of my life experiences as communicated from my neurons.

As the column concludes, “we don’t need more data.” There are tens of thousands of academic articles regarding neurologists’ research and more popular articles reporting and commenting on it. As illustrated by just one of my numerous Google searches, without quotes: (Who said, with regard to knowledge of the human brain, that there is lots of data but no theory?) brought up 60 hits with enticing titles on the first Google page alone. For some reason there was no information about the total number of hits for that search.

I claim no expertise, thorough research or certification in this field. As the column suggests, "I'm just curious." However, based on what I have seen so far it seems that much of the research deals with such things as reporting the weights of various animals' brains, their number of nurons and connections, the primary functions of various locations within a human brain, and the role of electricity and chemistry in transmitting whatever it is the brain is transmitting. Whereas my primary interest is in the content of the messages, the routing details, and how they go about encoding, storing and later retrieving a sight, sound, smell or other content.

18 U.S. Code Sec. 331

“Chapter 17 – Coins and Currency,” U.S. Code, U.S. House, https://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title18/part1/chapter17&edition=prelim (“Whoever fraudulently alters, defaces, mutilates, impairs, diminishes, falsifies, scales, or lightens any of the coins coined at the mints of the United States, or any foreign coins which are by law made current or are in actual use or circulation as money within the United States; or

Whoever fraudulently possesses, passes, utters, publishes, or sells, or attempts to pass, utter, publish, or sell, or brings into the United States, any such coin, knowing the same to be altered, defaced, mutilated, impaired, diminished, falsified, scaled, or lightened—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 700; July 16, 1951, ch. 226, § 1, 65 Stat. 121; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(I), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)”)

Brain numbers research (an example)

Suzana Hercularno-Houzel, “The Human Brain in Numbers: A Linearly Scaled-up Primate Brain,” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, National Library of Medicine, Nov. 9, 2009, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776484/

Jeff Hawkins

Jeff Hawkins, “How brain science will change computing,” TED Talks, Feb. 2003, at 5:11 and 05:53 minutes, over 1.7 million views, excerpt from https://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_hawkins_how_brain_science_will_change_computing/transcript

(“05:11 So why don't we have a good theory of brains? People have been working on it for 100 years. Let's first take a look at what normal science looks like. This is normal science. Normal science is a nice balance between theory and experimentalists. The theorist guy says, "I think this is what's going on," the experimentalist says, "You're wrong." It goes back and forth, this works in physics, this in geology. But if this is normal science, what does neuroscience look like? This is what neuroscience looks like. We have this mountain of data, which is anatomy, physiology and behavior. You can't imagine how much detail we know about brains. There were 28,000 people who went to the neuroscience conference this year, and every one of them is doing research in brains. A lot of data, but no theory. There's a little wimpy box on top there.

05:53 And theory has not played a role in any sort of grand way in the neurosciences. And it's a real shame. Now, why has this come about? If you ask neuroscientists why is this the state of affairs, first, they'll admit it. But if you ask them, they say, there's various reasons we don't have a good brain theory. Some say we still don't have enough data, we need more information, there's all these things we don't know. Well, I just told you there's data coming out of your ears. We have so much information, we don't even know how to organize it. What good is more going to do? Maybe we'll be lucky and discover some magic thing, but I don't think so. This is a symptom of the fact that we just don't have a theory. We don't need more data, we need a good theory.”)

# # #

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

What Do We Want?

What Do We Want America to Become?
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, November 21, 2023, p. A5

There are ways to extract ourselves from the Chaos Caucus and its wannabe authoritarian presidential candidate. But extractions are never painless.

As I was growing up, Republican presidents and candidates had names like Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, George Bush and John McCain – and Iowa’s Herbert Hoover.

Each was, or became, aware of the essential norms and skills for governing: respect and civility (even friendship), cooperation, negotiation, and compromise.

“Insurrection” was not in their vocabulary. They accepted lost elections and generally wished the winner well.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” I hear you say, in chorus with Speaker Tip O’Neil’s one-time top aide Chris Matthews. (Those were days when the Speaker and President Reagan got along as friends -- “after 6:00 p.m.”)

OK, then. Here’s our companion challenge.

Step one. What do we want our America to be? We’ve been walking backwards through the legislative process, never defining our destination. No wonder we never reach it.

Do we want a country based on Gordon Gekko’s assertion that “greed is good” because “it’s all about the money”? A game in which whoever dies with the most toys wins? Major banks prospering by cheating customers?

Universities that charge students $23,580 for tuition, board and room, and then add 11 mandatory fees (with two for the student union) – plus $150 to watch their fellow “student-athletes” play football? A medical bill for a brief visit with the item, “Miscellaneous $2,000”? We can handle a little extra charge for an auto mechanic’s “rags,” but $2,000 worth of “miscellaneous”?!

What’s greed bought us? America’s ranking is worse than its peer nations in life expectancy, infant mortality, pregnant teens, obesity, heart and lung disease, affordable prescriptions – and happiness.

All of us who are not Native Americans have immigrants among our ancestors. Do we share their dreams today? Share what made my grandfather’s eyes wet up when he sang “God Bless America”?

Share our Declaration of Independence assertion “that all (persons) are created equal, . . . endowed with unalienable rights (of) life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”? Share the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights' inclusion of “the right to . . . food, clothing, housing and medical care”? Share Jesus' command in Matthew 25 Jesus that we provide food, water, clothes, health care and shelter to those in need?

The destination choice is step one.
[Photo Source: League of Women Voters. If this photo is copyright and the LWV wants me to take down it, along with reference to the organization, just email mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org .]

Step two is abandoning knee-jerk, discussion-ending labels such as “capitalism” and “socialism.” Address instead, “what are the goods, services and personnel necessary to create what we want America to be?”

Step three doesn’t start with a House appropriations bill. It starts with listing needed resources – and their availability. The economic impact of individuals’ and organizations’ volunteer services are estimated at billions of dollars (exceeding federal programs’ cost to taxpayers). Non-profit organizations. Schools and colleges. Public spirited businesses. Creative cost savings. And, yes, governments’ contributions.

It may not be the total solution to the Chaos Caucus, but it’s three steps closer to a destination we first need to define.

Like Robert Kennedy, Nicholas Johnson “dreams of things that never were, and asks why not?” Contact mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

Chaos Caucus

Example of use: Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, “Newsweek: Why the Republican Chaos Caucus and Its Government Shutdown Should Make You Mad,” Newsweek, Sep. 22, 2023, https://kuster.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=5623

Wannabe authoritarian candidate

Examples of use: Michael Gerson, “Trump is an authoritarian wannabe. He must never hold power again,” The Washington Post, Dec. 21, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-an-authoritarian-wannabe-he-must-never-hold-power-again/2020/12/21/30164bd6-43d0-11eb-975c-d17b8815a66d_story.html

Republican presidents and candidates

“List of United States Republican Party presidential tickets,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_Republican_Party_presidential_tickets

Presidential norms and skills

David Montgomery, “The Abnormal Presidency; Trump dramatically changed the presidency. Here’s a list of the 20 most important norms he broke — and how Biden can restore them,” The Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/lifestyle/magazine/trump-presidential-norm-breaking-list/ (“To a remarkable extent, the presidency is shaped by unwritten traditions and expectations that historians and political scientists call “norms” — what political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt call the “soft guardrails” of American democracy.” For examples from the list of 20 norms here are the first three: “1 - Personally profiting from official business;” 2 - Not releasing tax returns;” and “3 - Refusing oversight”)

Steve Rubenzer, " What Makes a Good President? Psychologists assess the personality of every president in American history," American Psychological Association, Aug. 2000, https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2000/08/presidents

"Insurrection" - January 6, 2021 - 14th Amendment

“The Constitution: Amendments 11-27,” America’s Founding Documents, National Archives,” Amendment XIV, Section 3, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/amendments-11-27 (“Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”)

“January 6 United States Capitol Attack,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_6_United_States_Capitol_attack (“January 6 United States Capitol Attack,” “Methods: Demonstration; Right-wing terrorism; Civil disorder: rioting, vandalism, looting, assault, attempted bombing; Political subversion: propaganda (big lie),[10] conspiracy,[11][12] intimidation,[13] Incitement of insurrection, obstruction of official proceedings,[14] attacking a legislature”)

Acceptance of lost elections

Amy McKeever, “No modern presidential candidate has refused to concede. Here’s why that matters; The formal concession speech has played a vital role in even the most divisive U.S. elections, from the Civil War to Bush v. Gore,” History & Culture/News, National Geographic, Nov. 8, 2020, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/article/no-modern-presidential-candidate-refused-to-concede-heres-why-that-matters (“As Democrat Joe Biden led in the vote count, Trump indicated that he wouldn't concede defeat in the 2020 presidential election.” “Even though Joe Biden has secured enough votes to become president-elect of the United States, President Donald Trump has given every indication that he won’t accept the result as fair. Trump also has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power.

Both moves would be historical firsts if Trump refuses to concede even after all legal challenges are resolved. U.S. history has seen a handful of bitterly contested elections, most recently in 2000, when Democrat Al Gore called Republican George W. Bush to concede in the early hours after election night—only to call back and retract his concession when the race unexpectedly tightened up. While their first conversation was congenial, the second was tense, with Gore famously telling Bush, “You don’t have to get snippy about this.”

No presidential candidate has ever refused to concede defeat once all the votes were counted and legal challenges resolved.”)

Speaker Tip O'Neil

“Tip O’Neil,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tip_O%27Neill (“[O’Neil] was an American Democratic Party politician from Massachusetts who served as the 47th speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, the third-longest tenure in history and the longest uninterrupted tenure. He represented northern Boston in the House from 1953 to 1987.

Chris Matthews

“Chris Matthews,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Matthews (“Matthews hosted his weeknight hour-long talk show, Hardball with Chris Matthews, on America's Talking and later on MSNBC, from 1997 until March 2, 2020. . . . Matthews was a presidential speechwriter during the Carter Administration, and later worked for six years as Chief of Staff to longtime Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O'Neill, playing a direct role in many key political battles with the Reagan Administration.”)

O'Neil-Reagan relationship

“Tip O’Neil,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tip_O%27Neill (“Privately, O'Neill and Reagan were always on cordial terms, or, as Reagan wrote in his memoirs, they were friends "after 6 p.m.". In that same memoir, when questioned by Reagan regarding a personal attack against the president that had made the paper, O'Neill explained that "before 6 p.m. it's all politics".[20])

Gordon Gekko - "Greed is good"

“American Rhetoric: Movie Speech; ‘Wall Street’ (1987),” American Rhetoric Movie Speeches, https://www.americanrhetoric.com/MovieSpeeches/moviespeechwallstreet.html (“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed – for lack of a better word – is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed – you mark my words – will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”)

“Wall Street (1987 film), Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wall_Street_(1987_film) (“The film tells the story of Bud Fox (C. Sheen), a young stockbroker who becomes involved with Gordon Gekko (Douglas), a wealthy, unscrupulous corporate raider. . . . The film was well received among major film critics. Douglas won the Academy Award for Best Actor, and the film has come to be seen as the archetypal portrayal of 1980s excess, with Douglas' character declaring that "greed, for lack of a better word, is good."”)

It's all about the money

I thought this was just an expression I used from time to time when institutions or individuals made decisions that seemed, from the outside, to ignore morality and caring, and accepting “enough” as enough; instead, putting additional profit as a goal above all others.

When I searched Google with the phrase, just on the off chance, I discovered there is actually a song with those words and my meaning. Here are the first lines.

Meja, “All ‘Bout the Money,” Genius, https://genius.com/Meja-all-bout-the-money-lyrics (“Sometimes I find another world Inside my mind When I realize The crazy things we do It makes me feel ashamed to be alive It makes me wanna run away and hide

It's all 'bout the money It's all 'bout the dum dum da da dum dum I don't think It's funny To see us fade away It's all 'bout the money It's all 'bout the dum dum da da dum dum And I think we got it all wrong anyway”)

Dies with the most toys

“The Most Toys,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Most_Toys (“The Most Toys" is the 22nd episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the 70th episode of the series overall. . . . The episode's title comes from a popular saying found on bumper stickers and T-shirts in the 1980s which read, "He who dies with the most toys wins."[2] The quote was originally attributed to flamboyant millionaire Malcolm Forbes.”)

Banks cheating customers

George Morcroft, “Wells Fargo Paying $3.7 Billion For Cheating Clients and Trashing Credit Histories,” Nasdaq, Dec. 21, 2022, https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/wells-fargo-paying-$3.7-billion-for-cheating-clients-and-trashing-credit-histories (“Wells Fargo & Company (US:WFC) and its subsidiary, Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., said Tuesday that it agreed to pay $3.7 billion to resolve potential criminal and civil liability for behavior from 2002 to 2016 in which they pressured employees to meet unrealistic sales goals, which led to employees creating false accounts or selling products under false pretenses, often by creating false records or misusing customers' identities. Wells Fargo admitted that it collected millions of dollars in fees and interest to which it was not entitled, harmed the credit ratings of certain customers, and unlawfully misused customers' sensitive personal information, including their means of identification. The settlement includes a three year deferred prosecution agreement that compels Wells to abide by certain conditions, including continuing to cooperate with government investigations and implementing reforms. The settlement also requires Wells Fargo to pay a $500 million civil penalty to the SEC and to reform its business practices.”)

Universities' tuition

“The Office of Student Financial Aid; Undergraduate Cost for 2023-2024,” Iowa, https://financialaid.uiowa.edu/cost/undergraduate ($10,964, resident; $32,927, non-resident; Housing & Food $12,616) -- "Students who are in their first semester at the University of Iowa should add $250 (Records and Documents Fee) to the Tuition & Fees amount.”)

Universities' mandatory fees

“Mandatory Fees,” Office of the Registrar, Iowa, https://registrar.uiowa.edu/mandatory-fees (“Students enrolled at the University of Iowa are assessed . . . mandatory fees that help pay for the facilities and services available to them. Mandatory fees are not based on an individual’s use of facilities or services.” The list includes, “Technology Fee | Student Activity, Student Services, Student Union Fees | Building Fee | Recreation Facility Fee | Arts and Cultural Events Fee | Career Services Fee | Student Health Fee | Mental Health Fee | IMU Facilities Fee (New Fall 2023) | Professional Enhancement Fee |”

“Tuition & Fees Fall 2023,” Iowa, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Undergraduate Resident, Fees per semester,” https://tuition.ais.its.uiowa.edu/rates (12 fees (see above) totaling $5,482.00)

In addition to the “mandatory fees” there is a list of over 100 fees (ranging from $15 to $55,000) charged for individual programs, “2023-24 Common and Program Specific Fees,” Office of the Registrar, University of Iowa, https://registrar.uiowa.edu/2023-24-common-and-program-specific-fees

$150 - students' football fee

“Student Football, Basketball Tickets Now on Sale,” May 4, 2020, https://hawkeyesports.com/news/2020/05/04/student-football-basketball-tickets-now-on-sale (“Student season tickets for University of Iowa 2020 football and 2020-21 men’s basketball will go on sale Tuesday, May 5, at 9 a.m. (CT). University of Iowa students can purchase season tickets for the seven home football games for $150. Men’s basketball season tickets are $75. The men’s basketball schedule will be released this summer. All University of Iowa students currently enrolled for the fall semester can purchase season tickets at Hawkeyesports.com/student tickets.”)

Christina Gough, “Revenue of the NCAA from television broadcast payments and licensing rights from 2012 to 2027,” Statista, March 23, 2023, https://www.statista.com/statistics/219608/ncaa-revenue-from-television-rights-agreement/ (chart shows it going from $666M in 2012 to the 2023 to 2027 contracts producing $873M, (2023), $873, $995, $1,020, and $1,050 in 2027” - $1 Billion!)

Felix Richter, “ U.S. College Sports Are a Billion-Dollar Game,” Statista, July 2, 2021, https://www.statista.com/chart/25236/ncaa-athletic-department-revenue/ (“Universities collectively generate billions of dollars from TV deals, sponsorships and ticket sales with total revenue generated by NCAA athletic departments in 2019 adding up to $18.9 billion.”)

“The Economics of College Sports: How Does College Football Make Money?” The Citadel, July 30, 2018, https://today.citadel.edu/economics-college-sports-college-football-make-money/ (“The answer varies depending on the team, but the answer is that the top 24 teams in at Universities in the US can gross their athletic department over $100 million per season. . . . The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) reported that over $1 billion worth of football tickets were sold between September 2016 and August of 2017 alone. . . . the average football ticket to a top Division I game runs between $100 and $450 depending on what game you want to go see. Considering the average NFL ticket runs around $90, it’s easy to see how these universities make millions off of sold-out games alone.”)

"Miscellaneous: $2000"

I can provide the details, if needed (name of hospital, reason for visit, possible dates), and with considerable searching perhaps a copy of the bill, but I would rather not reveal the former and cannot now put my hands on the latter.

America's ranking - health issues

“U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,” National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK154469/ (“The United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest. Although life expectancy and survival rates in the United States have improved dramatically over the past century, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than people in other high-income countries.” Includes list of 9 measures.)

America's ranking - prescriptions' costs

“How Much Does the United States Spend on Prescription Drugs Compared to Other Countries?” Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Nov. 7, 2022, https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2022/11/how-much-does-the-united-states-spend-on-prescription-drugs-compared-to-other-countries (“According to a 2021 study by the RAND Corporation, a non-profit global policy think tank, prices of prescription drugs in the U.S. are 2.4 times higher than the average prices of nine other nations (Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom). That higher cost is largely related to brand-name drugs, which are 4.9 times more expensive in the U.S. than in those countries. In fact, brand-name drugs are responsible for 84 percent of total drug costs in the United States despite accounting for only 8 percent of drugs dispensed.”)

America's ranking - happiness index

Gianna Melilo, “US inches up to 15th on list of happiest countries; The United States worked its way up the list as several countries fell in rankings,” Changing America, The Hill, March 20, 2023, . https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/mental-health/3908922-us-inches-up-to-15th-on-list-of-happiest-countries/

“Happiest Countries in the World 2023,” World Population Review, https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/happiest-countries-in-the-world

Americans' ancestors as immigrants

Michael Ham, Quora, 2018, “What percent of Americans are descended from immigrants, and who exactly counts as immigrants?” https://www.quora.com/What-percent-of-Americans-are-descended-from-immigrants-and-who-exactly-counts-as-immigrants (“All Americans are descended from immigrants, speaking broadly, since Homo sapiens did not arise in the Americas. But if you’re distinguishing Native Americans from others, then a search shows that 98% of Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. 5.4 million is the nation's population of American Indians and Alaska Natives, including those of more than one race. They made up about 2 percent of the total population in 2014.”) Both sets of my grandparents were immigrants.

Grandfather and "God Bless America"

My mother’s father, born in 1875, came from Germany alone as a teenager. He was very proud and grateful to be an American citizen and served for many years in the Iowa Legislature. Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” history and lyrics can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Bless_America

Declaration of Independence

“Declaration of Independence: A Transcription,” National Archives, July 4, 1776, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, . . ..”)

UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights (“Article 25 (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” And others. “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages.”)

Matthew 25

"Matthew 25:35-40," English Standard Version 2016 (ESV), https://www.bible.com/bible/compare/MAT.25.35-40 ("For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. . . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”)

Economic impact of volunteers

“Making volunteer work visible: supplementary measures of work in labor force statistics,” Monthly Labor Review, US Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 2020, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2020/article/making-volunteer-work-visible-supplementary-measures-of-work-in-labor-force-statistics.htm (“The Alzheimer’s Association notes that 18.4 billion hours of care annually, valued at $232 billion, are provided by family and other unpaid caregivers.50 In addition, the American Time Use Survey shows that each year 41.3 million people provide unpaid care to people ages 65 and over.51 According to an estimate prepared for the 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report by the United Nations, 70 percent of global volunteer activity occurs through direct person-to-person engagement, while 30 percent takes place formally through organizations.52.”)

Federal program - volunteers' value exceeds budget from taxes

“The Economic Value of Volunteers; Key Results from ACL [Administration for Community Living] Programs,” https://acl.gov/sites/default/files/programs/2021-09/ACL%20Volunteerism%20Study_Infographic%20August%202021.pdf (“The value provided by OAA Title III AAA volunteers exceeded federal funding for the program.” $1.7 billion vs. $1.49 billion)

Decisions Must Come Before Taxes

Nicholas Johnson, “Decisions Must Come Before Taxes,” The Gazette, Jan. 3, 2018, https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2017/12/taxes-are-last-step-not-first.html

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Tuesday, November 07, 2023

Didn't Know the Territory

We Didn't Know the Territory
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, November 7, 2023, p. A6

In the movie version of Iowa’s best-known musical, “The Music Man,” the opening scene is a Rock Island Railroad passenger car filled with over a dozen salesmen bouncing down the tracks to River City, Iowa, convinced that Harold Hill “doesn’t know the territory.”

That was the passenger train I took from Iowa City to high school organizations’ meetings in Des Moines or Chicago. During the 1950s I could ride the “Katy” line directly to Austin, Texas, and back.

From the time the first train reached Iowa City on January 3, 1856, to the first American locomotive to exceed 100 mph in 1893, and our country’s 254,000 miles of track by 1916, trains were once Americans’ first choice for travel.

That enthusiasm continues today in over 20 countries. Their passenger trains go 124 to 221 miles per hour, starting with Japan’s “bullet train” I rode in the 1960s, up to the world’s record 357 mph French TGV on April 3, 2007. Going from city center to city center, avoiding the time and frustration of going to, through, and from airports, high speed rail is cheaper and almost as fast as flying. (Photo credit: Wikimedia.commons' photo of French TGV.)

In 1994 a group of eminent scientists warned China that relying on cars and highways was a mistake, citing the loss of cropland for feeding its people. They recommended instead rail, buses and bicycles – with the added benefits of improving climate change, air pollution, crowded highways, and transportation for those who can’t afford cars.

Today China has two-thirds of the world’s high-speed railroads.

And what do we have?

With 278 million vehicles travelling over four million miles of highways, filling up at 145,000 gas stations, using 40 million acres of farmland for roads and parking lots, we’ve created one of the biggest road networks of any country – and the primary cause of climate change.

How could Americans get so far off-track? Like some Facebook users characterize their relationship, “it’s complicated.”

In the 1920s capitalists saw the potential profits from car sales. Americans sought the prestige of the latest technology: car ownership. Teenagers sought the freedom they provided. Politicians liked the contributions and votes from government highway construction. And few cared when GM tore up the tracks in Los Angeles and opened car dealerships – ignoring the transportation needs of those who couldn’t afford cars.

Americans, once in love with passenger rail, had found a shinier new lover.

To travel America today everyone must, in effect, buy, drive and care for their own locomotive. In some congested areas cars move slower -- and at far greater cost -- than the horse and buggy they replaced. Only 20 percent of Americans can afford new cars, at $50,000. What’s your time driving worth? Add the costs of fuel; tolls, licenses and taxes; insurance; maintenance and repairs; home garages and parking elsewhere and, as attributed to the late Senator Dirksen, “You’re talking real money.”

How did it happen? Maybe we just “didn’t know the territory.”

Nicholas Johnson, logging thousands of bicycle miles, never bought a new car. Contact mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

After posting this column and "sources" the following movie/documentary was brought to my attention. If you are interested in this subject I highly recommend your watching it: "Taken for a Ride - The U.S. History of the Assault on Public Transport in the Last Century," New Day Films, 1996, 56:24,

“The Music Man” (Broadway; and movie).

“The Music Man,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Music_Man (“In the early summer of 1912, aboard a train leaving Rock Island, Illinois,[34] Charlie Cowell and other traveling salesmen debate whether modern conveniences are making their profession more difficult.”)

“The Music Man (1962 film),” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Music_Man_(1962_film)

Music Man opening scene; salesmen on train; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ9U4Cbb4wg

Rock Island Railroad.

“Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago%2C_Rock_Island_and_Pacific_Railroad (“The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad . . . was also known as the Rock Island Line . . .. At the end of 1970, it operated 7,183 miles of road on 10,669 miles of track [and]] 20,557 million ton-miles of revenue freight and 118 million passenger miles. . . . The song "Rock Island Line", a spiritual from the late 1920s first recorded in 1934, was inspired by the railway. . . . Its predecessor, the Rock Island and La Salle Railroad Company, was incorporated in Illinois on February 27, 1847, and an amended charter was approved on February 7, 1851, as the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. Construction began in Chicago on October 1, 1851, and the first train was operated on October 10, 1852, between Chicago and Joliet. Construction continued on through La Salle, and Rock Island was reached on February 22, 1854, becoming the first railroad to connect Chicago with the Mississippi River. . . . The railroad retired its last steam locomotive from service in 1953.”)

Trips to Des Moines and Chicago.

There are no “sources” for these trips beyond memories left a few left over neurons.

“Katy” Railroad.

“Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri%E2%80%93Kansas%E2%80%93Texas_Railroad, (“ Established in 1865 under the name Union Pacific Railroad (UP), Southern Branch, it came to serve an extensive rail network in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. In 1988, it merged with the Missouri Pacific Railroad; today, it is part of UP.

In the 1890s, the MKT was commonly referred to as "the K-T", because for a time it was the Kansas-Texas division of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and "KT" was its abbreviation in timetables as well as its stock exchange symbol. This soon evolved into the nickname "the Katy".[1]

The Katy was the first railroad to enter Texas from the north.”)

Train reached Iowa City January 3, 1856.

Herbert L. Moeller and Hugh C. Mueller, “Building a Great Railroad System,” “Our Iowa, Its Beginning and Growth” (1938), Iowa History; An IAGenWeb Special Project, https://iagenweb.org/history/history/oibg/RR.htm (“Iowa’s First Railroad The first railroad built in Iowa ran westward from Davenport to Iowa City, then the capital of Iowa. . . . The first train pulled into Muscatine from Davenport in November, 1855, and a great celebration was held. Two towns twenty-five miles apart were now connected by rail!

In order to get the railroad completed to Iowa City by January 1, 1856, many people who lived in that city helped the workmen. Huge bonfires were built to keep the men warm and to furnish light to work by at night. The first train arrived in Iowa City on the afternoon of January 3, 1856.”)

Locomotive going over 100 mph.

Association of American Railroads, “Chronology of America’s Freight Railroads,” https://www.aar.org/chronology-of-americas-freight-railroads/ (“On May 10, [1893] Locomotive No. 999 of the New York Central hits 112.5 miles per hour between Batavia and Buffalo, New York — the first time a train exceeds 100 miles per hour.”) [Batavia to Buffalo is 41 miles]; https://www.trippy.com/distance/Buffalo-to-Batavia-NY ]

“High-Speed Rail Train,” Britannica, Oct. 9, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/technology/high-speed-rail (“High-speed rail (HSR), passenger train that generally travels at least 200 km (124 miles) per hour and can cruise up to 355 km (221 miles) per hour, though some have reached higher speeds. More than 20 countries, largely in Asia and Europe, have high-speed rail networks. Transportation researchers have found that traveling via high-speed rail in Asia and Europe is a competitive alternative to flying for trips up to about 1,000 km (620 miles).

History The first high-speed rail was Japan’s 515-km (320-mile) Shinkansen line connecting Tokyo and Ōsaka, inaugurated in advance of the 1964 Summer Olympics. Its inauguration was greeted by widespread international acclaim, and the Shinkansen was quickly dubbed the “bullet train” for the great speed the trains obtained and for the aerodynamic bullet shape of their noses. Many innovations, such as the use of prestressed concrete ties and 1.6-km- (1-mile-) long welded sections of track, were introduced in the line’s construction.”)

254,000 miles of track in 1916.

“The Golden Age of American Railroading,” University of Iowa Libraries, August 1989, https://www.lib.uiowa.edu/exhibits/previous/railroad/ (“Trackage increased from 35,000 miles in 1865 to 254,000 miles in 1916, the eve of America’s entry into World War I. The first transcontinental railroad was finished on May 10, 1869, when the Union Pacific met the Central Pacific at Promontory in Utah Territory.”)

Iowa rail mileage. Adam Burns, “State Mileage Chart,” “Iowa Railroads In ‘The Hawkeye State,’” Oct. 11, 2023, https://www.american-rails.com/ia.html (1920 9,808 miles; “today” (2017, 3834 miles)

Americans liked passenger rail travel.

“Trains: A History,” Institute for Transportation, Iowa State University, Aug. 16, 2016, https://intrans.iastate.edu/news/trains-a-history/ (“Trains served as the most important mode of transportation during a period of time called “The Golden Age” of railroads, which lasted from the 1880s until the 1920s.”

“Passenger Train,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passenger_train (“Travel by passenger trains in the United States began in the 1830s and became popular in the 1850s and '60s.“)

Iowa Plans for Passenger Rail.

Although there is nothing in the column about Iowa plans for passenger railroads, and little likelihood of any plans coming to fruition, because the talk is starting up again it seemed a good idea to at least list some of the sources for those unfulfilled Iowa plans over the years. Here’s a sample:

Grant Leo Winterer, “6 northeast Iowa counties considering passenger rail line,” IPR, News of the Day, Oct. 25, 2023, https://www.iowapublicradio.org/live-updates/news-of-the-day?utm_source=Newsletters&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=IPR_Daily_Digest&utm_source=Daily+Digest+Newsletter&utm_campaign=10c91865b0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2023_10_27_03_50_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_-891edfcec1-%5BLIST_EMAIL_ID%5D&mc_cid=10c91865b0&mc_eid=75556320f8#6-northeast-iowa-counties-considering-passenger-rail-line

“Iowa Rail,” Vision/Plan, Iowa Department of Transportation, https://iowadot.gov/iowarail/iowa-passenger-rail/vision-plans

“2021 Iowa State Rail Plan,” Iowa in Motion, Iowa Department of Transportation, https://iowadot.gov/iowainmotion/modal-plans/rail-transportation-plan (Chapters 1-6; Appendices A-F)

“Iowa Connections; Get on Board with Passenger Rail!” Iowa Department of Transportation, Office of Rail Transportation, Jan. 4, 2011, 21 pp. with graphics, https://publications.iowa.gov/16153/1/IowaConnections.pdf

“Iowa State Rail Plan,” Final Report, Nov. 2021, Iowa Publications Online, State Library of Iowa, https://publications.iowa.gov/43128/

Austin Wu, “A passenger rail station for Iowa City: So nice, they planned it thrice,” The Gazette, Dec. 7, 2022, https://www.thegazette.com/staff-columnists/a-passenger-rail-station-for-iowa-city-so-nice-they-planned-it-thrice/

“Chicago to Iowa City Intercity Passenger Rail Service Project; Finding of No Significant Impact,” Federal Railroad Administration, https://railroads.dot.gov/sites/fra.dot.gov/files/fra_net/261/Chicago_to_Iowa_City_FONSI_11_16_2011.pdf

20 countries with high speed rail.

“High-Speed Rail Train,” Britannica, Oct. 9, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/technology/high-speed-rail (“More than 20 countries, largely in Asia and Europe, have high-speed rail networks. Transportation researchers have found that traveling via high-speed rail in Asia and Europe is a competitive alternative to flying for trips up to about 1,000 km (620 miles).”

124-221 mph.

“High-Speed Rail Train,” Britannica, Oct. 9, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/technology/high-speed-rail (“High-speed rail (HSR), passenger train that generally travels at least 200 km (124 miles) per hour and can cruise up to 355 km (221 miles) per hour, though some have reached higher speeds. More than 20 countries, largely in Asia and Europe, have high-speed rail networks. Transportation researchers have found that traveling via high-speed rail in Asia and Europe is a competitive alternative to flying for trips up to about 1,000 km (620 miles).

“Passenger Train,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passenger_train (“In most cases, high-speed rail travel is time- and cost-competitive with air travel when distances do not exceed 500 to 600 km (310 to 370 mi), as airport check-in and boarding procedures can add at least two hours to the overall transit time.[14] Also, rail operating costs over these distances may be lower when the amount of jet fuel consumed by an airliner during takeoff and climbout is taken into consideration.”)

Japan “bullet train.”

“High-Speed Rail Train,” Britannica, Oct. 9, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/technology/high-speed-rail (“History The first high-speed rail was Japan’s 515-km (320-mile) Shinkansen line connecting Tokyo and Ōsaka, inaugurated in advance of the 1964 Summer Olympics. Its inauguration was greeted by widespread international acclaim, and the Shinkansen was quickly dubbed the “bullet train” for the great speed the trains obtained and for the aerodynamic bullet shape of their noses. Many innovations, such as the use of prestressed concrete ties and 1.6-km- (1-mile-) long welded sections of track, were introduced in the line’s construction.”)

French train 357 mph.

“What Are the World’s Fastest Trains?” High Speed Rail Alliance, Dec. 12, 2022, https://www.hsrail.org/blog/worlds-fastest-trains/ (“The current world speed record for a commercial train on steel wheels is held by the French TGV at 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph), achieved on 3 April 2007 on the new LGV Est. The trainset, the track and the cantenary were modified to test new designs.”)

High speed rail travel time cheaper and close to time for air travel.

“High-Speed Rail Train,” Britannica, Oct. 9, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/technology/high-speed-rail (“Transportation researchers have found that traveling via high-speed rail in Asia and Europe is a competitive alternative to flying for trips up to about 1,000 km (620 miles).”

Scientists’ warning and recommendations for China.

Lester R. Brown, “Plan B Updates; Paving the Planet: Cars and Crops Competing for Land,” Earth Policy Institute, Feb. 14, 2001, https://www.earth-policy.org/plan_b_updates/2001/alert12 (“When Beijing announced in 1994 that it planned to make the auto industry one of the growth sectors for the next few decades, a group of eminent scientists — many of them members of the National Academy of Sciences — produced a white paper challenging this decision. They identified several reasons why China should not develop a car-centered transport system, but the first was that the country did not have enough cropland both to feed its people and to provide land for the automobile.

The team of scientists recommended that instead of building an automobile infrastructure of roads and parking lots, China should concentrate on developing state-of-the-art light rail systems augmented by buses and bicycles. This strategy would not only provide mobility for far more people than a congested, auto-centered system, but it would also protect cropland.”)

China has two-thirds of world’s high speed railroads.

“High-speed rail,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_rail (“More recent construction since the 21st century has led to China taking a leading role in high-speed rail. As of 2023, its network accounted for over two-thirds of the world's total.”)

U.S. 278 million vehicles.

Ashlee Tilford, “Car Ownership Statistics 2023,” Forbes Advisor, Oct. 5, 2023, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/car-insurance/car-ownership-statistics/ (“278,063,737 personal and commercial vehicles were registered to drivers in the U.S. in 2021. . . . 91.7% of households had at least one vehicle in 2021; 94.4% in Iowa. . . . Iowa (1,619,970) [1,619.97 per 1000 licensed drivers] ranks 5 in US . . . 22.1% of households with 3 or more; 60% households with 2, 3 or more . . . EVs & hybrids 12.3% of all new vehicle sales in 2022 (Calif 1.62% of total registration; Iowa 42, 0.12% of registered vehicles)

4 million miles of U.S. highways.

Mathilde Carlier, “Highway mileage within the United States from 1990 to 2020 (in million statute miles),” Statista, April 28, 2023, https://www.statista.com/statistics/183397/united-states-highway-mileage-since-1990 (“In 2020, the highway network in the United States had a total length of around 4.17 million statute miles. One statute mile is approximately equal to 5,280 feet. The United States has one of the most extensive road networks worldwide.”)

145,000 filing stations.

Sky Ariella, “The 10 Largest Gas Station Chains in the United States,” Zippia, April 22, 2023, https://www.zippia.com/advice/largest-gas-station-chains/ (“Largest Gas Station Chains Research Summary The largest gas station chain in the U.S. is Exxon Mobil, with a revenue of $413.68 billion and 71,100 employees. As of 2022, the US gas station industry has a market size of $138.3 billion. There are over 145,000 gas stations across the US.”)

40 million acres highways and parking lots.

"Pavement is replacing the world's croplands,” Grist, March 1, 2001, https://grist.org/article/rice/ (“Millions of acres of cropland in the industrial world have been paved over for roads and parking lots. Each U.S. car, for example, requires on average 0.18 acres of paved land for roads and parking space. For every five cars added to the U.S. fleet, an area the size of a football field is covered with asphalt.”)

U.S. one of biggest road networks.

Mathilde Carlier, “Highway mileage within the United States from 1990 to 2020 (in million statute miles),” Statista, April 28, 2023, https://www.statista.com/statistics/183397/united-states-highway-mileage-since-1990 (“In 2020, the highway network in the United States had a total length of around 4.17 million statute miles. One statute mile is approximately equal to 5,280 feet. The United States has one of the most extensive road networks worldwide.”)

Fossil-fuel vehicles major contributor to climate change.

“Measuring Vehicle Emissions: What is the Carbon Footprint?” in Stephanie Safdie, “What’s the Impact of Vehicle Emissions on the Planet?” Greenly, Sep. 20, 2023, https://greenly.earth/en-us/blog/ecology-news/vehicle-emissions-whats-the-impact-on-the-planet (“Transportation has received significant attention, because it is the sector with the single highest contribution to global warming in the US at 29%.”)

“Reduce Climate Change,” Fuel Economy.Gov, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy, https://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/climate.shtml (“Highway vehicles release about 1.5 billion tons of greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere each year—mostly in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2)—contributing to global climate change. Each gallon of gasoline you burn creates 20 pounds of GHG. That's roughly 5 to 9 tons of GHG each year for a typical vehicle.”)

Causes and Effects of Climate Change,” Climate Action, United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/causes-effects-climate-change (“Fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions.”)

Facebook “complicated” relationships.

Holly Golightly, Question: “Why have people who set their relationship status to “It’s Complicated” on Facebook done so?” https://www.quora.com/Why-have-people-who-set-their-relationship-status-to-It-s-Complicated-on-Facebook-done-so? answer, Quora, (“This probably varies from person to person. I would imagine the most likely scenario is that the person with the “complicated” relationship still feels committed to one person, but at the same time is open to exploring other options. It could also mean a difficult situation with a third party, or even just a relationship that fails to be classified. If you really want to know, you should contact that person directly. Cheers!”)

Answer, Quora, ChatGPT, “People who set their relationship status to "It's Complicated" on Facebook may have done so for a variety of reasons. Some people may use this status to indicate that they are in a relationship that is not straightforward or easy to define, while others may use it to signal that they are currently navigating a difficult or uncertain period in their relationship. Some people may also use this status to indicate that they are involved with multiple people, or that they are not sure of their feelings towards their partner. Ultimately, the reasons for using this status are likely to vary depending on the individual and their specific situation.”

During 1920s swing from rail to automobiles.

The Age of the Automobile,” U.S. History, https://www.ushistory.org/us/46a.asp (“By 1920, there were over 8 million registrations. The 1920s saw tremendous growth in automobile ownership, with the number of registered drivers almost tripling to 23 million by the end of the decade.” “When America opted for the automobile, the nation's rails began to be neglected. As European nations were strengthening mass transit systems, individualistic Americans invested in the automobile infrastructure.”

Ford’s sales; capitalists’ profits.

“New car prices in 1939,” Antique Automobile Discussion,” April 30, 2015, https://forums.aaca.org/topic/255941-new-car-prices-in-1939/ (“Rusty Otoole, Posted April 30, 2015 (edited), “The list price of the basic Ford or Chevrolet sedan was under $700. That was what they printed in their advertising, it would probably cost a little more for shipping, dealer prep and accessories but the base price was under $700. Edited April 30, 2015 by Rusty_OToole (see edit history).”)

Factors increasing Americans desire for cars in 1920s.

“1920s Consumption,” U.S. Consumption, Khan Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/rise-to-world-power/1920s-america/a/1920s-consumption# (“Overview For many middle-class Americans, the 1920s was a decade of unprecedented prosperity. Rising earnings generated more disposable income for the purchase of consumer goods.

Henry Ford’s advances in assembly-line efficiency created a truly affordable automobile, making car ownership a possibility for many Americans.

Advertising became as big an industry as the manufactured goods that advertisers represented, and many families relied on new forms of credit to increase their consumption levels as they strived for a new American standard of living.

The expansion of credit in the 1920s allowed for the sale of more consumer goods and put automobiles within reach of average Americans. Now individuals who could not afford to purchase a car at full price could pay for that car over time -- with interest, of course!

Once a luxury item, cars became within reach for many more consumers as automobile manufacturers began to mass produce automobiles. The most significant innovation of this era was Henry Ford’s Model T Ford, which made car ownership available to the average American.

Ford’s innovation lay in his use of mass production to manufacture automobiles. He revolutionized industrial work by perfecting the assembly line, which enabled him to lower the Model T’s price from $850 in 1908 to $300 in 1924, making car ownership a real possibility for a large share of the population. . . . By 1929, there were over 23 million automobiles on American roads.")

“46a. The Age of the Automobile,” U.S. History, https://www.ushistory.org/us/46a.asp# (“Perhaps no invention affected American everyday life in the 20th century more than the automobile. . . .

Even the federal government became involved with the Federal Highway Act of 1921. . . .

Freedom of choice encouraged many family vacations to places previously impossible. Urban dwellers had the opportunity to rediscover pristine landscapes, just as rural dwellers were able to shop in towns and cities. Teenagers gained more and more independence with driving freedom. Dating couples found a portable place to be alone as the automobile helped to facilitate relaxed sexual attitudes.”)

GM tore up tracks in LA.

“General Motors streetcar conspiracy,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy# (“This suit created lingering suspicions that the defendants had in fact plotted to dismantle streetcar systems in many cities in the United States as an attempt to monopolize surface transportation. . . . At the hearings in April 1974, San Francisco mayor and antitrust attorney Joseph Alioto testified that "General Motors and the automobile industry generally exhibit a kind of monopoly evil", adding that GM "has carried on a deliberate concerted action with the oil companies and tire companies...for the purpose of destroying a vital form of competition; namely, electric rapid transit". Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley also testified, saying that GM, through its subsidiaries (namely PCL), "scrapped the Pacific Electric and Los Angeles streetcar systems leaving the electric train system totally destroyed".[62]”)

So did Iowa.

Iowa rail mileage. Adam Burns, “State Mileage Chart,” “Iowa Railroads In ‘The Hawkeye State,’” Oct. 11, 2023, https://www.american-rails.com/ia.html (1920 9,808 miles; “today” (2017, 3834 miles)

Horse and buggy faster than cars.

Andrew Nikiforuk, “The Big Shift Last Time: From Horse Dung to Car Smog; Lessons from an earlier energy transition. Third in a series,” The Tyee, March 6, 2013, https://thetyee.ca/News/2013/03/06/Horse-Dung-Big-Shift/# (“Ironically, it didn’t take long for millions of cheap cars to clog urban thoroughfares so completely that they moved as slowly as horses.

Congested urban cities such as Vancouver even ran advertisements as early as 1959 asking, “Should we [go] back to the horse and buggy days?”

“Don’t laugh,” added the poster. Real tests show that “the average speed at which traffic moves through congested areas is less than it was during the horse and buggy days.”)

Costs of automobile transportation.

“Owning a car is a necessity for many Americans, but is the financial burden worth it in today’s market?” Intuit/Creditkarma, Dec. 7, 2021, https://www.creditkarma.com/about/commentary/owning-a-car-is-a-necessity-for-many-americans-but-is-the-financial-burden-worth-it-in-todays-market (“According to a study by Qualtrics on behalf of Credit Karma, one-third of respondents who are not car owners say they need a car but cannot afford one in today’s market. What’s more concerning is that nearly half (45%) of respondents who don’t have cars feel that not owning a car is holding them back from making financial progress (i.e. not being able to easily commute to work), while 12% say owning a car is too big of a financial obligation.”)

James Ochoa, “Why only about 22 percent of Americans can afford a new car; Sticker shock is only part of the problem for prospective buyers,” TheStreet, Oct 6, 2023, https://www.thestreet.com/automotive/why-only-about-22-percent-of-americans-can-afford-a-new-car- (“The report analyzed one’s financial ability to finance what it determined was the average new car. According to Kelly Blue Book, the average price of a brand new car in the United States is around $48,000. A common guideline about how much to spend when buying a new car is the old 20/4/10 rule, where you put at least 20% of the purchase price for a down payment, take out a 4-year loan, and spend no more than 10% of your income on said car. . . . In a comment on the state of the new car market, a former Ford executive said that “You have to make over $100,000 just to afford a new car. . . . According to data from the United States Census Bureau, only 21.6% of individuals in the United States made $100,000 a year in 2022, meaning that a new car is out of reach financially for 78.4% of the population. According to Forbes, the average salary in the United States is roughly $59,428.”)

Ashlee Tilford, “How Much Does it Cost to Own a Car?, Car Ownership Statistics 2023,” Forbes Advisor, Oct. 5, 2023, https://www.forbes.com/advisor/car-insurance/car-ownership-statistics/ (“278,063,737 personal and commercial vehicles were registered to drivers in the U.S. in 2021. . . . 91.7% of households had at least one vehicle in 2021; 94.4% in Iowa. . . . Iowa (1,619,970) [1,619.97 per 1000 licensed drivers] ranks 5 in US . . . 22.1% of households with 3 or more; 60% households with 2, 3 or more . . . EVs & hybrids 12.3% of all new vehicle sales in 2022 (Calif 1.62% of total registration; Iowa 42, 0.12% of registered vehicles” “It costs $10,728 a year, or $894 a month, to own and operate a new car, according to AAA.[6] That’s up 10.99% from 2021, when the average yearly cost was $9,666 a year, or $805.50 a month.[6]

Here are some additional car ownership statistics about new cars:

In 2022, the average sales price for a new car was $45,646, and the average sales price for a used car was $30,796.[7] Over the past five years, new cars have cost $39,884 on average, and used cars have cost $24,242 on average.[7] Between 2018 and 2022, new vehicles increased in price by 28.19%, and used vehicles increased in price by 49.60%.[7]

Cost of car ownership by state To determine which states are the most (and least) expensive for car ownership, Forbes Advisor analyzed gas prices, car repair costs, average car insurance costs and monthly auto loan payments in all 50 states. . . .

Least expensive states to own a car Ohio is the least expensive state to own a car, followed by: Iowa . . . Iowa and Ohio car ownership costs are reduced by cheap car insurance rates, thanks to healthy competition among a multitude of car insurance companies in both states. . . .

Methodology To determine which states are the most expensive for car ownership, Forbes Advisor examined data for all 50 states across the following metrics:
• Cost of regular gasoline (25% of score): Data for this metric comes from AAA and was collected on Feb. 24, 2023.
• Average car repair cost (25% of score): This metric includes the cost of parts and labor for a check engine light-related car repair. Data comes from CarMD and is from 2021.
• Average annual cost of full coverage car insurance (25% of score): This metric is based on liability coverage of 100/300/100 ($100,000 in bodily injury liability per person, $300,000 per accident, and $100,000 in property damage liability), uninsured motorist coverage, and collision and comprehensive insurance with a $500 deductible. We used 2022 rates from Quadrant Information Services.
• Average monthly auto loan payment (25% of score): Data for this metric comes from Experian and is from 2022.”)

Senator Dirksen; “You’re talking real money."

Everett Dirksen, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everett_Dirksen (“The saying, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you're talking real money" has been attributed to Dirksen, but there is no direct record of Dirksen saying the remark.[43]”)

# # #

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Basketball on a Football Field

Basketball Played on a Football Field
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, October 24, 2023, p. A6

“How ‘bout that Iowa women’s basketball team!” Playing basketball on a football field – and before a crowd of 55,000 no less.

Where will they perform next? Perhaps a Broadway theater? There’s been real basketball on stage recently. My son in law, Jason, recently played the foul-mouth coach in the basketball play, “The Great Leap.” [Photo credit: Iowa Women's Basketball Twitter/X page.]

Maybe they could play basketball on the Moon – or inside a modified Space Station.

How far women have come since the fight for Title IX began in 1972. Iowa’s Christine Grant spent much of her life effectively responding to the male opposition that continues to this day – leadership producing benefits beyond Iowa to the nation and world.

Clearly the highlight of the sports law class I taught was the hour she was willing to come and mesmerize the students.

No one else was willing to teach sports law and I felt, when students are begging to learn something, a faculty has an obligation to respond.

My teaching it was otherwise a peculiar choice. In a small high school (U-High) a six-foot-three, 195-pound male was required to participate in all sports: football, basketball and track. In Austin I was urged to play football for Texas. (I declined.) I liked the Green Bay Packers primarily because of its non-profit public ownership.

In my Washington jobs I thought the demands required a self-imposed “maximum work product per unit time” (something I’m not proud of).

And so it was, when reading the L.A. Times on a return to Washington, I flipped over the sports section to the business pages. Though unmarried at the time, I hadn’t noticed or spoken to a woman my age next to me. A tap on my shoulder. “Yes,” I responded. “Would you marry me?” she asked. “Anything’s possible,” I replied, “but the plane is full of men more handsome and wealthy. Why me?” “All my life,” she said, “I’ve been looking for a man who doesn’t read the sports pages.”

As Maritime Administrator during the Vietnam war, I had some responsibility for “sealift” of military materiel, using refurbished World War II cargo ships. Although based in Washington I needed to visit our office in Saigon. The White House requested that, while there, I write up my observations about the war.

The startling lesson I learned was that whatever one thinks about wars in general, there are times, places and circumstances when they are impossible to stage.

For example, when locals have lived through centuries of invaders and we’re just the latest; it’s an ongoing civil war; we don’t know the native language, history, culture, or tribal relationships; we wear uniforms but our enemies don’t; we can’t distinguish enemies from the locals we employ; our efforts increase rather than decrease chaos; and there’s no frontline, as territory is gained only to be lost again.

And what’s this got to do with women’s basketball?

I had summed up my report with the concluding line, “You can’t play basketball on a football field.”

Nicholas Johnson is a fan of Iowa women’s basketball, no matter where played. Contact mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org
Basketball on football field. Photo of Kinnick Stadium on Iowa Women’s Basketball Twitter/X page, Oct. 15, 2023, https://twitter.com/intent/follow?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1713635989443211478%7Ctwgr%5E65118809a1d92563651fedba1888f0a1f4bba9ac%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.si.com%2Fcollege%2F2023%2F10%2F15%2Fiowa-womens-basketball-game-kinnick-stadium-coolest-scenes&screen_name=IowaWBB (scroll down about 2/3ds of page)

Madison Williams, “The Coolest Scenes From Iowa Women’s Basketball Game at School’s Football Stadium,” Sports Illustrated, Oct. 15, 2023, https://www.si.com/college/2023/10/15/iowa-womens-basketball-game-kinnick-stadium-coolest-scenes

On-stage basketball and “The Great Leap.” Ben Brantley, “Review: Basketball Meets Tiananmen Square in ‘The Great Leap,’” New York Times, June 4, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/04/theater/the-great-leap-review-bd-wong.html

A.A. Cristi, ”Farmers Alley Theatre's Regional Premiere Production Of THE GREAT LEAP; The time: 1989. An American college basketball team travels from San Francisco to Beijing for a ‘friendship game’ against a Chinese squad,” Broadway World, Jan 5, 2023, https://www.broadwayworld.com/michigan/article/Farmers-Alley-Theatres-Regional-Premiere-Production-Of-THE-GREAT-LEAP-20230105 (“Our production stars . . . Jason Grubbe (as the hard-driving American coach ‘Saul’) . . ..”)

Title IX. “History of Title IX,” Women’s Sports Foundation, https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/advocacy/history-of-title-ix/

Christine Grant. Josh O’Leary, “How Christine Grant Changed the Game; On the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the University of Iowa celebrates the legacy of the athletics administrator who helped level the playing field nationally and sparked a women's sports revolution,” Iowa Magazine, Feb. 15, 2022, https://magazine.foriowa.org/story.php?ed=true&storyid=2168

Sports law class. Nicholas Johnson, “Sports-Related Online Resources,” last updated June 2017, https://www.nicholasjohnson.org/sports/sla12resources.html

Nicholas Johnson, “Syllabus; Sports Law, [91:346], University of Iowa College of Law, Iowa City, Iowa. Spring 2012,” https://www.nicholasjohnson.org/sla12/sla12syl.html

Table of Contents of Weiler 4xth edition casebook, https://www.nicholasjohnson.org/sla12/Weiler4th-TOC-full.pdf

Green Bay Packers. “Green Bay Packers, Inc.,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Bay_Packers,_Inc. (“Green Bay Packers, Inc. is the publicly held nonprofit corporation that owns the National Football League (NFL)'s Green Bay Packers football franchise, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The corporation was established in 1923 as the Green Bay Football Corporation, and received its current legal name in 1935.

The Packers are the only publicly owned major professional sports franchise in the United States.[1] Rather than being the property of an individual, partnership, or corporate entity, they are held as of 2022 by 537,460 stockholders.[2] No one is allowed to hold more than 200,000 shares,[3] which represents approximately four percent of the 5,011,558 shares currently outstanding.[4] It is this broad-based community support and non-profit structure[5] which has kept the team in Green Bay for over a century in spite of being the smallest market in all of North American major professional sports.[a]”)

“Will you marry me?” There is no source for this story other than the memory, seemingly firmly implanted in some neurons. For the curious, there is no memory of what happened thereafter, aside from the absence of any record of our marriage. I’m assuming there was nothing worth remembering from any subsequent conversation during that flight, and relatively confident we never saw each other again.

Maritime Administration. For a description of how I came to be Maritime Administrator, see, “Thinking Outside the Cubicle: Business Skills in a Wider World,” Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity, University of Iowa, Nov. 9, 2005, https://www.nicholasjohnson.org/writing/akp51109.html (scroll down to the four sections beginning with the heading “Called to the White House”).

“National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF); American Ships. American Crews. American Jobs.” Updated March 26, 2022, https://www.maritime.dot.gov/national-defense-reserve-fleet (“As part of its Strategic Sealift operations, MARAD manages and maintains a fleet of inactive, Government-owned vessels known as the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF), which provides a reserve of approximately 100 vessels -- mostly military-useful cargo and tanker ships -- ready to support national defense and emergencies. The NDRF also includes the military-focused Ready Reserve Force (RRF) and facilitates vessel loans, donations, and disposals, as well as artifact management and merchant marine training.”)

“The Maritime Administration’s First 100 Years: 1916 – 2016,” U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration,” last updated Feb. 25, 2022, https://www.maritime.dot.gov/history/historical-documents-and-resources/maritime-administration%E2%80%99s-first-100-years-1916-%E2%80%93-2016 (“During the Vietnam War, 172 NDRF vessels supported sealift operations and transported military cargo to Southeast Asia between July 1965 and June 1970. The majority of the NDRF ships activated during the war were World War II-era Victory ships, and activating the old vessels was one MARAD’s biggest challenges. Further complicating matters was the largescale ship activation required to coincide with the sudden troop escalation in Vietnam; between July and December 1965 MARAD activated 76 ships. MARAD employed shipyards on every coast to help activate ships that had not operated in years.”)

Vietnam. Nicholas Johnson, “The Futility of War and the Path to Peace,” Remarks on Armistice Day, November 11, 2018, 11:00 a.m., Veterans for Peace, Chapter 161 event, Pentacrest, Iowa City, Iowa, https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2018/ (scroll down page to find text, and then, within it, the sub-heading “First, Lessons From Vietnam”)

“Viet Cong Uniform,” National Museum of American History, Smithsonian, https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1272957 (“The Viet Cong were a guerilla force that fought against the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict. Viet Cong could be a farmer, a woman, or a child and they were indistinguishable from the United States' South Vietnam allies. They used makeshift weapons, had a variety of uniforms, and avoided traditional combat, making it difficult to know who exactly the enemy was. Their orders came from the North Vietnam Communist party.”)

White House-requested report and concluding line. I cannot recall, and so far as I know there is no record of, who in the White House passed along this request. Nor do I know where, if anywhere, there might be a copy of that report. I do not have a copy. I do recall including that final line, thinking it a good way to make my point in a context that should be entirely understandable to anyone.

# # #

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Shaken, Not Stirred

Higher Ed is Shaken, Not Stirred
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, October 10, 2023, p. A6

Like a James Bond martini, America’s higher education is being “shaken, not stirred.”

While 22 other nations provide free college, increasing their numbers of college educated while watching their economies grow, the U.S. is doing the opposite. (American students thinking college “important” fell from 70 to 41 percent in 10 years.)

Debt has become our drug of choice. Interest on the national debt is now $475 billion – five times the federal budget in 1963. Student loans total $1.6 trillion. Lifetime interest payments for the average American’s mortgage, used car payments, credit card balance and student loans is $280,000. We’re all working for the banks.

When college is free, graduates leave commencement with no debt, into jobs that enable them to start creating wealth for their old age and participating in the consumer purchasing that fuels 70 percent of our economy.

High school graduates, and their parents, are coming to realize the distinction between “income” and “wealth.” A diploma may or may not bring a college graduate the promised additional million dollars, but it won’t bring wealth if, like President Obama, they are still paying off student debt in their 40s – or later, or never.

There are also distinctions between “diplomas” and “education.” There is more free “education” than anyone could absorb in a lifetime – from the Kahn Academy to the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) of some of the world’s top universities. But only colleges and universities can issue “diplomas.”

An S&P 500 manager told me of his disappointment with the college graduates who couldn’t comprehend a manual, write a report, or do basic math. I asked, “What if there were standard, national exams for those skills? Would you hire those who didn’t have a diploma but passed the exams?” “Of course,” he said. “We train all employees for their job. But we don’t have the time or skills to teach them math.” (Photo credit: Nicholas Johnson.)

What should Iowans do? There are too many possibilities for short columns. But we might start with a governor who doesn’t favor additional tax breaks for the wealthy over programs that benefit all Iowans – as well as Iowa’s economy.

We could join the 20 U.S. states that benefit from offering free community college education.

More Iowa high schools could take the lead in offering preparation for the trades along with traditional subjects (as Germany has profitably done for years), allowing students to take community college courses while in high school, or offering advanced placement courses to all students.

Labor-saving technology enriches CEOs and shareholders – but not those whose jobs disappear – as thousands of switchboard operators discovered once customers could dial their own phones, and 150,000 UAW fossil fuel auto workers are discovering now.

Yes, many Americans and their institutions have been shaken. But how many of the rest of us have been stirred? Stirred to advocate and fight for the obvious win-win solutions for the shaken, their institutions, our country, its economy – and ourselves?

Nicholas Johnson doesn’t fancy martinis, whether shaken or stirred. Contact mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

Shaken, not stirred. “Shaken, not stirred,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaken,_not_stirred

22 Nations free college. Paul Tough, “Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? For most people, the new economics of higher ed make going to college a risky bet,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/05/magazine/college-worth-price.html (“In Italy, Spain and Israel, [public-university tuition is] about $2,000. In France, Denmark and Germany, it’s essentially zero.”)

“Countries with Free College,” Online College Plan, https://www.onlinecollegeplan.com/what-countries-offer-free-college/ (22 countries offer free college tuition; 11 more have very low tuition)

Paul Tough, “Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? For most people, the new economics of higher ed make going to college a risky bet,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/05/magazine/college-worth-price.html (“Outside the United States, meanwhile, higher education is more popular than ever. Our global allies and competitors have spent the last couple of decades racing to raise their national levels of educational attainment. In Britain, the number of current undergraduates has risen since 2016 by 12 percent. (Over the same period, the American figure fell by 8 percent.) In Canada, 67 percent of adults between 25 and 34 are graduates of a two- or four-year college, about 15 percentage points higher than the current American attainment rate.

Britain and Canada are not the outliers on this point; we are. On average, countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have increased their college-degree attainment rate among young adults by more than 20 percentage points since 2000, and 11 of those countries now have better-educated labor forces than we do, including not only economic powerhouses like Japan and South Korea and Britain but also smaller competitors like the Netherlands, Ireland and Switzerland. Americans have turned away from college at the same time that students in the rest of the world have been flocking to campus. . . .

But just as individual students pay a cost in lost wages when they opt out (or drop out) of college, there is a larger cost when millions of students do so — especially as other nations keep charging ahead. Holtz-Eakin and Lee calculated the price to the American economy of the millions of missing college grads they are projecting: $1.2 trillion in lost economic output by the end of the decade. That is one cost we are likely to bear together, winners and losers alike.”)

“Why Should College Be Free?” College Raptor, Dec. 22, 2022, https://www.collegeraptor.com/find-colleges/articles/affordability-college-cost/why-should-college-be-free/

“A Brief History of Free Education,” Online College Plan, https://www.onlinecollegeplan.com/history-free-education/

College important. Paul Tough, “Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? For most people, the new economics of higher ed make going to college a risky bet,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/05/magazine/college-worth-price.html (“A decade later, Americans’ feelings about higher education have turned sharply negative. The percentage of young adults who said that a college degree is very important fell to 41 percent from 74 percent.”)

Interest on National debt; Federal budget in 1963. Interest on national debt. “Interest Costs on the National Debt Are on Track to Reach a Record High,” Peter G. Peterson Foundation, https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2023/02/interest-costs-on-the-national-debt-are-on-track-to-reach-a-record-high (“Interest payments on the national debt were $475 billion in fiscal year 2022 — the highest dollar amount ever. Interest costs grew 35 percent last year and are projected to grow by another 35 percent in 2023.”)

National budget in 1963. “Annual Budget Message to the Congress, Fiscal Year 1963,” The American Presidency Project, https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/annual-budget-message-the-congress-fiscal-year-1963 (“The total of budget expenditures--estimated at $92.5 billion in fiscal 1963--is determined in large measure by the necessary but costly programs designed to achieve our national security and international objectives in the current world situation.”)

Lifetime interest payments. Jackie Zimmerman, “You're Going to Spend $280,000 on Interest in Your Lifetime,” Money, Jan. 15, 2015, https://money.com/lifetime-interest-payments/

Elizabeth Gravier, “You could end up paying $160,000-plus in interest alone over your lifetime; Select calculates total interest paid on a mortgage, car loan, student loans and credit card debt,” CNBC Select, Aug. 28, 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/select/how-much-americans-pay-in-interest-over-lifetime/ (“We found that the average American with a mortgage on a median-priced home, one used car payment, an average credit card balance and student loan burden can wind up paying $164,066 in just interest over their life.”)

$1.6 trillion student loans. Paul Tough, “Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? For most people, the new economics of higher ed make going to college a risky bet,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/05/magazine/college-worth-price.html (“Over the last decade and a half, more and more young Americans have turned to loans to cover those rising costs. In 2007, total student debt stood at $500 billion. Today it is $1.6 trillion, and for many borrowers, their debt is becoming a serious burden. Among student borrowers who opened their loans between 2010 and 2019, more than half now owe more than what they originally borrowed. . . . [The] people who are making out the worst at the casino: students who borrow money to attend college but don’t graduate. . . . Two-thirds said they would have a hard time coming up with $400 to cover an unexpected expense. Financially, they were not only doing much worse than college graduates; they were doing worse than adults who had never gone to college at all. For these former students, the college wage premium had turned upside down.”)

Diploma provides extra $1 million. Michael T. Nietzel, “New Study: College Degree Carries Big Earnings Premium, But Other Factors Matter Too,” Forbes, Oct. 11, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2021/10/11/new-study-college-degree-carries-big-earnings-premium-but-other-factors-matter-too/?sh=45aae67d35cd (“According to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), adults with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $2.8 million during their careers, $1.2 million more than the median for workers with a high school diploma. . . . The report also reveals that career earnings depend on many factors in addition to level of education—including age, field of study, occupation, gender, race and ethnicity, and location.”)

“Education and Lifetime Earnings,” Research, Statistics & Policy Analysis, Social Security, Nov. 2015, https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/research-summaries/education-earnings.html (“Men with bachelor's degrees earn approximately $900,000 more in median lifetime earnings than high school graduates. Women with bachelor's degrees earn $630,000 more.”)

Consumers 70% of economy. “US consumer spending holds strong in July,” Economist Intelligence, Aug. 29, 2023, https://www.eiu.com/n/us-consumer-spending-holds-strong-in-july/ (“Private consumption (which represents nearly 70% of US GDP) . . ..”)

“Income” and “wealth.” Paul Tough, “Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? For most people, the new economics of higher ed make going to college a risky bet,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/05/magazine/college-worth-price.html (“[In] the early 1980s, the college wage premium began to rise steadily. In the early 2000s, it surpassed 60 percent, and ever since, it has hovered around 65 percent [greater than the income of those with only a high school education]. In theory, today’s sky-high college wage premium should mean a surge of young people onto college campuses, not the opposite. But as a measure of the true value of higher education, the college wage premium has one important limitation. It can tell you how much college graduates earn, but it doesn’t take into account how much they owe — or how much they spent on college in the first place. For a long time, there were no good alternative measures to the college wage premium. But a few years ago, a group of economic researchers in St. Louis introduced a new one: the college wealth premium. Unlike the college wage premium, the college wealth premium looks at all your assets and all your debts: what you’ve got in the bank, whether you own a house, your student-loan balance. It addresses a simple but important question: How much net wealth does a typical college graduate accumulate over their life span, compared with that of a typical high school graduate?”)

President Obama’s student debt paid in his 40s. “Obama: I Only Paid Off My Student Loans Eight Years Ago,” ABC News, April 24, 2012, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/obama-paid-off-student-loans-years-ago/story?id=16204817# (Obama said on April 24, 2012, “We only finished paying off our student loans off about eight years ago. That wasn't that long ago. And that wasn't easy--especially because when we had Malia and Sasha, we're supposed to be saving up for their college educations, and we're still paying off our college educations," he said. Born: August 4, 1961; “8 years ago in 2012 = 2004; 1961-2004 = 43 years old – Obama was president January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017)

“Diplomas” and “Education.”

Kahn Academy. Kahn Academy/courses, https://www.khanacademy.org/; https://www.khanacademy.org/about “From humble beginnings to a world-class team What started as one man tutoring his cousin has grown into a more than 150-person organization. We’re a diverse team that has come together to work on an audacious mission: to provide a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere. We are developers, teachers, designers, strategists, scientists, and content specialists who passionately believe in inspiring the world to learn. A few great people can make a big difference. Anyone can learn anything. For free. Education is a human right. We are a nonprofit because we believe in a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Instead of ads or subscriptions, we are supported by individual contributions from people like you. Please join us today.”)

MOOCs. “Tuition Free Online Colleges and Free Online Degree Programs,” Online College Plan,” https://www.onlinecollegeplan.com/free-online-degree-programs/ (Massive open online courses, MOOC)

Diplomas vs. Reading, Writing, Math exams. Personal conversation/experience; no public source available.

Iowa Governor’s tax breaks for wealthy. “Gov. Reynolds Announces Iowa Budget Surplus of $1.83B,” Governor Kim Reynolds, Sept. 27, 2023, https://governor.iowa.gov/press-release/2023-09-27/gov-reynolds-announces-iowa-budget-surplus-183b# (“Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the State of Iowa will end Fiscal Year 2023 with a balance of $1.83 billion in the General Fund, $902 million in reserve funds and $2.74 billion in the Taxpayer Relief Fund. . . . ‘I look forward to cutting taxes again next legislative session and returning this surplus back to where it belongs – the people of Iowa.’”)

States with free community college. “Is Community College Free? (In Some States, Yes),” Coursera, Aug. 23, 2023, https://www.coursera.org/articles/is-community-college-free (“As of 2022, 20 states provide tuition-free community college . . ..”)

Benjamin Wermund, “The Red State that Loves Free College; How Tennessee is Making Bernie Sanders’ favorite education idea a reality,” The Agenda, Politico, Jan. 16, 2019, https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2019/01/16/tennessee-free-college-000867/ (“The state’s free-college program, called Tennessee Promise, has been offering two years of tuition-free community college or technical school to all high school graduates, regardless of income, since 2014. . . . a model for a handful of other states that have launched free-college programs of their own, including New York, Oregon and Rhode Island, though few go as far as Tennessee’s. The results here have been so promising that the state’s conservative Legislature decided to double down, expanding free community college beginning last year to all adults, regardless of income, who don’t already have a credential. . . . Tennessee Promise is billed as an economic-growth program, a way to boost the workforce and lure companies – and jobs – to the state. It focuses on community colleges and technical colleges where students train for those jobs, rather than more elite universities that serve better-off students and come with what critics see as a liberal political culture. Second, the program is open to everyone, not just low-income students.”)

Brooklyn Draisey, “Iowa community college tuition is up 3.6% this year, report shows,” Iowa Capital Dispatch, Oct. 5, 2023, https://iowacapitaldispatch.com/2023/10/05/iowa-community-college-tuition-is-up-3-6-this-year-report-shows

Iowa high schools providing trades prep, access to community college, AP classes. Mackenzie Ryan, “Training in Skilled Trades Making Comeback in Iowa Schools,” Des Moines Register, Aug. 20, 2017, https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2017/08/20/training-skilled-trades-making-comeback-iowa-schools/508572001/ (“Once unsure of his future, the recent North High School graduate now plans to become an electrician. It's an in-demand job. In Iowa, experienced electricians average $30 an hour, or more than $62,000 a year, according to the Iowa Wage Report 2016. That's more than the state's average wage of $20.12 an hour. . . . State and industry leaders want more teens to follow Hageman's lead into so-called "middle skills" jobs — those requiring additional training beyond high school but less than a four-year college degree. As Iowa students head back to school this week, one of the hottest focuses is an effort to expand and elevate vocational and technical training in high school. . . . More K-12 schools and Iowa companies are partnering to add and expand skilled-trades programs, from creating the Skilled Trades Academy in Des Moines to a pre-apprenticeship program in Boone that can reduce the amount of time it takes a student to complete a traditional apprenticeship. ‘The ability to earn a high-quality living with little debt — when you can give that hope to students and families, it inspires them to be engaged in their learning,’ said Aiddy Phomvisay, director of Central Campus in Des Moines.”)

After this column and sources were sent to The Gazette up until the time it was published there were a number of stories of relevance regarding education in Iowa:
Grace King, “Lessons from work-based learning in Iowa schools could inform Legislature; Executive director of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council Jeff Weld hears successes, challenges in Grant Wood AEA region,” The Gazette, Oct. 10, 2023, p. 1, https://www.thegazette.com/k/lessons-from-work-based-learning-in-iowa-schools-could-inform-legislature/

Grace King, “Coralville Elementary school named National Blue Ribbon School; Borlaug Elementary School recognized for effective and innovative teaching practices,” The Gazette, Oct. 10, 2023, https://www.thegazette.com/k/coralville-elementary-school-named-national-blue-ribbon-school/

Caleb McCullough, “Falling Interest and Accessibility Top Concerns for Private Colleges, The Gazette, Oct. 9, 2023, p. A7, (not yet posted on Gazette website; 231010-0851)

Vanessa Miller, “Panel Will Examine Challenges Testing Iowa’s Small Colleges; Other iowa Ideas Topics Include Meeting Student Needs and Lifelong Learning,” The Gazette, Oct. 8, 2023, p. S7, https://www.thegazette.com/higher-education/iowa-ideas-panel-will-examine-challenges-testing-iowas-small-colleges/

Blaire Greteman, “’The Knowledge of Being Free,’” The Gazette, Oct. 8, 2023, p. C7, (An excellent discussion of “liberal arts” and why they are not politically “liberal” or limited to what we usually think of as “art.”) (not yet posted on Gazette website; 231010-0851)

German education. “The German Vocational Training System: An Overview,” German Missions in the United States, https://www.germany.info/us-en/welcome/wirtschaft/03-Wirtschaft/-/1048296 (“The German vocational training system, with its combination of classroom and business, theory and practice, learning and working, is recognized worldwide as a basic and highly effective model for vocational training. The dual system is firmly established in the German education system . . .. Thus, the German dual system of vocational training combines theory and practice, knowledge and skills, learning and working in a particularly efficient manner.”)

“The German School System,” The German Way & More, https://www.german-way.com/history-and-culture/education/the-german-school-system/ (“Part of the reason for the dearth of private or church schools is the German conviction that public education is a vital element that contributes to a well-educated citizenry and a sense of common purpose. Germany has a compulsory school attendance law. The law requires school attendance (Schulpflicht), not just instruction, from age 6 until age 15. This helps explain why homeschooling is illegal in Germany. . . . The Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education, and most of the pupils work part-time as apprentices. Upon completion of the final Hauptschulabschluss examination, after grade 9 or 10. They also have the option of earning the more prestigious Realschulabschluss after grade 10. With that, the next step is often a Berufsschule, an advanced technical/vocational school with a two-year course of apprenticeship and study.”)

Mackenzie Ryan, “Training in Skilled Trades Making Comeback in Iowa Schools,” Des Moines Register, Aug. 20, 2017, https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/education/2017/08/20/training-skilled-trades-making-comeback-iowa-schools/508572001/ (“in countries such as Switzerland, vocational training has taken a different route, including higher academic expectations and lessons”)

Paul Tough, “Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? For most people, the new economics of higher ed make going to college a risky bet,” New York Times, Sept. 5, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/05/magazine/college-worth-price.html (“In Canada and Japan, public-university tuition is now about $5,000 a year. In Italy, Spain and Israel, it’s about $2,000. In France, Denmark and Germany, it’s essentially zero.”)

Thousands of switchboard operators. Greg Daugherty, “The Rise and Fall of Telephone Operators; As their numbers grew, women operators became a powerful force—for workers' rights and even serving overseas in WWI,” History, June 1, 2021, https://www.history.com/news/rise-fall-telephone-switchboard-operators (“With the coming of the 1930s, technology that allowed telephone users simply to dial another phone without the aid of an operator had become widespread. Phone companies took advantage of the moment to slash their workforces, and thousands of operators lost their jobs. By 1940, there were fewer than 200,000 in all.”)

150,000 UAW fossil fuel auto workers; electric cars. Neal E. Boudette, “U.A.W. Expands Strikes at Ford and G.M.; The United Automobile Workers union said 7,000 more of its members would walk off the job two weeks after it began strikes at the Big Three automakers,” New York Times, Sept. 29, 2023, https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/29/business/economy/uaw-strike.html (“The three automakers together employ nearly 150,000 U.A.W. members. . . . Union leaders are concerned that automakers will use the transition to electric vehicles to lower wages and reduce the number of unionized workers they employ.”)

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